PEORIA (WEEK) -- Since the pandemic started, Jolt Harm Reduction says they are serving nearly twice as many homeless people.
Unfortunately, people have lost their jobs and ended up on the streets without a home.
With little to no access to healthcare, doctors in the community have come together to help serve the most vulnerable as they start a new street medicine program in Peoria.
"I'm currently staying under a bridge with sleeping bags and tents," said one homeless man in Peoria.
That's the reality for 29-year-old Daniel Stewart, and hundreds in the greater Peoria area that are surviving on the streets.
Because of that, OSF HealthCare workers have stepped in to care for the most vulnerable.
"The second and fourth Thursdays we go out and we see patients wherever they are," says Dr. Mary Stapel, the medical director for community care at OSF St. Francis Medical Center.
Stapel at OSF Community Care and RN Randal Mcclallen started a street medicine team in July to offer free doctor visits to those without a home or insurance.
"It literally is street medicine. Dr. Stapel and I were out on a sidewalk on Adams Street removing suture's from a patient. That was real medicine, real time," said McClallen, a faith community nurse at OSF St. Francis Medical Center.
The nurses are out on a the street multiple times a week giving medical attention to those who need.
And then, on the first and third Wednesday of every month at the Dream Center for those struggling with homelessness, like Stewart, they can go there for dinner, a shower, do laundry, get new clothes, a hair cut and, of course, a visit with Dr. Stapel and her team.
"You see other people caring for people and it's gives me value ... makes me feel like I have value when I generally don't think I do," said Stewart.
Stapel says she needs meet people where they are, at their level today, rather than in the clinic or hospital.
"If we don't have peace, it's really because we've forgotten we belong to each other, every human life has worth and people who are living in a situation that we could've been in ourselves are no less worthy than receiving quality healthcare and getting what they need," said Stapel.
"I believe there's a very fine line between me and where they're at, I realize everyday I could be in the same position just as they are, so I don't see a difference between myself and the people that I serve," said McClallen.
For those like Stewart, the care and compassion the doctors show is a matter a life and death.
"I'm actually growing to get myself out of this rut that I've been in. Having people there to support is actually what can help you keep going, because sometimes you're just really on the end of the ropes and sometimes you just wanna quit and they're there to support you," Stewart said.
Stewart says he's struggled with addiction and is speaking with doctors and those at Jolt Harm Reduction to start the road to recovery.
For those interested and willing to help, Jolt Harm Reduction is always looking for donations.
Whether it's clothes, shoes, sleeping bags, tents or even medical supplies you can call them at 309-966-3643 to donate.